Riffing On Hymn #34

So this uptight dude from Tarsus named Saul, had a hobby of persecuting people. For his day job, he was a manufacturer of camping equipment. He had a website: "Saul Things Camping" ("The prices are fair, ya see.")

Yet Saul himself was an unhappy camper.

He made tents. He made everybody tense. He made himself tense. Until the day Saul scored some primo weed: "Damascus Gold." Opened up a whole new world for him. Made him three days blind, and when he could see again, he could see.

He said, "Whoah, dig it. I am all new. I need a new name."

So he changed his name to Paul. He was one hep cat.

Let me tell you about the trip he laid down on those brothers and sisters in Corinth. He went to Corinth, and when all the Corinthian siblings had gathered for Sunday morning worship, Paul spoke to the congregation. He asked them a strange question: "How brave does your fire need to be?"

These Corinthians, they were serious about their faith. They even came to church in August, when it was unfashionable to do so. They had studied at Asia Minor Theological Seminary. They could preach. They could whip up some decent inspiration, no problem. They could burn some pretty brave fire on a good day.

Paul said, "Groovy. Burn baby burn. Keep on burning, sisters. Flame on, brothers. But: how brave does your fire need to be?"

One Corinthian said, "Brave enough to burn up all the fear in the world."

Paul said, "All of it? Really? No, we need to be able to fear. You may not be a fear addict -- a junkie with the jones on for another hit of adrenalin speed; the short hairs on your neck standing at attention; pupils dilating to take in everything. Maybe you're not craving that it do so, but your body can fear, and that is a grace. You wouldn't want it not to be able to do that. Fear is a grace.
So I ask again, how brave does your fire need to be?"

No one made a second guess, so Paul said: "The brave fire doesn't sear out the body's wise danger signals. It burns the cobwebs of fear, hanging around, clinging and sticky, long after the body fear's gracious gift-work is done. That's a brave fire that can burn all that leftover, hanger-on fear, looping, sticking epiphenomena of fear. The brave fire burns what just isn't needed anymore, burns the conscience that doth make cowards of us all, burns us into our courage. Do you speak with that brave fire? Are you living your life with that brave fire? Have you ever? Maybe once? Well burn on, baby. That's great. Let me just ask you this. Right now, this morning, right here, each other, where's the love, man?"

Those Corinthians couldn't answer. Paul rested in their silence until he was sure he could see where the love was.

Then he said, "Look. No, really: look. What have you got? Look and see. Take inventory. What have you got? You've got possessions. OK. A house, a car, a closet full of clothes, bookshelves sagging with the weight of all those volumes. Throw it all out. If you want to. I mean, that biographical analysis of the theology of John Calvin? When are you going to need that again? That sounding brass that you got at that little gift shop at that spiritual retreat center because you thought it would be a cool thing to have, what are you still carrying that around for? Chuck it all. Or, heck, don't. Keep it. I don't care. I just want you to know that keeping it is useless and that giving it away proves nothing. So, whatever. What else? What else you got?"

To be continued.

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This is part 2 of 4 of "Beatnik Celebration"
Next: Part 3: "Beat Paul and the Corinthians"
Previous: Part 1: "No Other Life"

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